Thursday, September 28, 2017

Some tips for training with baby

"Your life is going to change forever."
I can't count how many times I heard that while my wife was pregnant. When Hayden "Bubsy" Spierings came into the world, there was definitely some adjusting to do. One of those changes was in my workout schedule.
Kristen Van Kley pushes 6.5 month old son in a stroller
From that experience, I've cobbled together some tips for the ever ambitious triathlete when two becomes three.
There'll be plenty to do when you get home from work, so those lunchtime workouts become key. Keep a pair of sneakers at work for lunchtime runs and/or join a gym close to your work to make the most of the time you have alone.
Some equipment investments need to be made so that family and workout time can be combined. A running stroller -- we have the Bob Revolution -- is great for runs and walks. Some new parents are nervous about using it for a newborn. We waited about three months, but baby Hayden loves the rocking vibrations and sights and sounds while we run. We take it on the back streets and, of course, West Cliff Drive is a popular baby stroller location.
You can also bike with baby. We bought a bike chariot off a friend and an orange safety flag from the Bicycle Trip bike shop on Soquel Avenue. After that, we were ready to go. Babies grow quickly, I'm told, so a lot of second-hand stuff can be found lightly used. It's a bit of a struggle to get the helmet strap over Hayden's chubby chin, but he is equally content attached to the rear axle of a bike as to the stroller.
Swimming is a great non-weight-bearing exercise for the new mom, as many find running and cycling uncomfortable postpartum. Luckily, Hayden loves the water and is happy to get swapped between us while one of us swims. You will want to get some water-proof diapers.
So don't be discouraged when your workouts are no longer on the top of the priority list. There are still some ways to get your heart beating without employing a full-time nanny or even compromising family time too much.
Article first appeared in "In the Long Run" column of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Monday, September 25, 2017

2017 Santa Cruz Triathlon Results and Report

Article published in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, 25th September, 2017

Clear, sunny skies and glassy waters greeted hundreds of competitors at the 35th annual Santa Cruz Triathlon on Sunday.

The event was focused for amateur triathletes but the race managed to attract elite competitor Stephen Kilshaw of Victoria, Canada to the Olympic distance event. And despite not resting up for the event, the 32-year-old won in 1:53:28.

He finished ahead of Santa Cruz local Jack Calhoun (1:57:10) by almost four minutes followed by Vince Donofrio (2:03:45) of San Francisco in third.

The competitors swam 1.5k around the Santa Cruz wharf, rode 40k on a bike to Davenport and back, then finished with a 10k run to Natural Bridges and back along West Cliff Drive.

Kilswhaw was in the Bay Area to train with his triathlon coach Muddy Waters to prepare for the Louisville Ironman triathlon in three weeks.

“I was here to blow out the carburetors a little bit. We did a good solid ‘Muddy’ ride of about 100 miles yesterday” Kilshaw said.

There was no prize money awarded on Sunday but age category winners received a souvenir towel and overall winners got a Plantronics headset.

The fastest woman of the day in the Olympic distance race was 43-year-old Mill Valley resident Shawn Connell-Clarkson who finished in 2:22:28. She recently returned to California from Bermuda and was surprised by the colder water temperature.

“It was a beautiful day. I love coming down here and then going to Betty’s Burgers as a reward,” Connell-Clarkson said. “I did not expect to win. I have won this race before, a few years ago, and that was a shock too.”

Anna Guzman, 28, from San Jose was actually the first woman to cross the finish line in 2:24:23 but placed second overall with a slower elapsed time than Connell-Clarkson, who started in a wave behind her. Alexandra Yakovleva, 32 of Palo Alto, finished third in 2:32:21.

And despite triathlon participation reaching a plateau in the past few years, the Santa Cruz event, which is one of the longest running in California, had one of its most successful runs last year.

“Last year was our best year ever. The race sold out and we gave $64,000 to local high school and collegiate athletic programs,” Race director Jennifer Murray said. “I know there are a lot of races for triathletes to choose from and that the neighbors and businesses on our race course are affected by many, many events. I really appreciate the support and understanding the Santa Cruz Triathlon receives. As cheesy as it sounds, what we do really is for the kids.”

This year, the combined events attracted a total of nearly 1,200 competitors, which is the max capacity. In the past few years, other multi-sport events have been added to the classic Olympic distance race to keep total registration numbers up including a shorter Sprint distance triathlon that features a.75k swim, 20k bike and 5k run.

Most of the competitors were satisfied with the organization, but with a congested field some expressed frustration with people drafting, especially among the more competitive athletes.

Drafting is where competitors gain advantage by riding directly behind others, which is cheating under triathlon rules and athletes are penalized with a time penalty of two minutes. According to race timer Greg Richards of SVE Timing, 20 penalties were handed out by officials on Sunday.

Finishers were awarded with a unique wooden medal that doubled as a drink coaster with a bottle opener on the back. One proud recipient was 25-year-old Santa Cruz native Cecilia Carrillo after she attempted the Olympic triathlon portion of the race for the first time. She completed her first triathlon of a shorter distance this year in the spring as part of the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association’s Nu2Tri program.

The program introduces new people to the sport with mentors, coached workouts and clinics. Carrillo continued to train during the summer with the friends she made at the club after the program ended.

“I went to the SCTA workouts. (I’m) pretty faithful. I’d say about six to ten hours of training a week.” said Carrillo, who was satisfied with her result of 2:59:01. “It was amazing. A solid race.”

After the athletes crossed the finish line in front of the Dream Inn, they made their way down to Depot Park to recover, socialize, receive awards and make goals for 2018.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

5 Don'ts for the Santa Cruz Triathlon

Here are my race tips for tomorrow's Santa Cruz Triathlon.

1. Don't use the wharf to navigate

The wharf is a funny L shape and you'll end up swimming further and crooked if you use it for sighting in the swim. Follow the buoys on the way out and use the right side of the dream inn (or the palm tree) to navigate the shortest path on the way back in.

2. Don't put shoes on to run to T1

It's a waste of time and an extra thing to think about. Barefoot running on concrete is not fun but you'll be fine. HTFU.

3. Don't try and wash your feet

Sometimes they give you pools to wash your feet it. This is a waste of time and counterproductive. You want your feet to be as dry as possible so making them wet again so sand and stones stick on them does not make sense. And don't wear socks, use some Johnson's baby powder in your shoes.

4. Don't attack the start of the hills

The bike course is NOT FLAT. It has some significant rollers that are longer than they look. Build into the hill so you're not exhausted and sitting up panting at the top. You want to work the end of the hill so that you're coming over the crest, back in your aero position, with good momentum.

5. Don't blow up on the run

There is a hill right out of T2 and there are a lot of spectators cheering and adrenaline rushing. Don't be hero here! This is a course you must negative split to have a good day. Relax up that hill with short steps and build into the first half. Start applying the hurt after the turnaround.

Monday, September 11, 2017

2017 Ironman Santa Cruz 70.3 Race Results

Braden Currie and Ben Hoffman recover after their sprint finish across the sand
Mother nature complicated the swim portion of today’s Ironman 70.3 Santa Cruz triathlon event, a planned 1.2 mile swim at Cowell Beach, 56 mile bike north along Highway 1 and 21.1 mile run taking in West Cliff Drive and Wilder Ranch State Park. Earlier in the week the red tide, which swept in and created pollution concerns in the Cowell Beach area, had rumors circulating of a cancelled swim, or at the very least a change of location. Then on the day of the event, as the wetsuited athletes began amassing on the beach for the early morning start, they were greeted by a thick fog that sat over the swim area making the buoys used for sighting almost impossible to see. There was a delay while organizers hurriedly adjusted the course, shortening it so the buoys were closer together and adjusting the swim course closer to shore. Strong swimmers were disappointed to learn the swim was now about a third of the distance originally planned.

The drama was managed by experienced race director, Tom Cotton, who has been officiating the race for 15 years. While essentially the same course, the race has grown by over 1000 participants from when it was known as “The Big Kahuna” triathlon. The major change came in 2015 when the Ironman brand, which is associated with the mythical Ironman World Championship in Hawaii and owned by a Chinese investment firm, bought the event. Cotton stayed on as race director. “It’s kinda nice having a crew come in and help me out. Whereas before it was just my wife and I putting on the race for many years with 15 people. Now it’s 30-35 people coming in to organize” said Cotton.

Having an event officially associated with the Ironman brand brings additional marketing resources and is an extra pull for triathletes all over the country and world. It’s not uncommon for athletes, after completing a half Ironman or Ironman event to get tattoos of the “M-dot” Ironman logo on their bodies, such is the enthusiasm for the races.

The event’s new status as an Ironman branded event has also brought a professional prize money purse to what was previously an amateur only event. The rewards are still comparatively modest in comparison with other professional sports however with $25,000 prize pool spread across male and female top place getters. Many of the pros travelling from interstate or overseas stayed with members of the Santa Cruz Triathlon Association, who opened their homes to elites for a few days around time of the event, so the athletes could save on accommodation expenses.

When the pro male wave finally took off about an hour after the planned start, the leaders predictably stayed in close contact given the short time in the water. German Andi Boecherer leapt off the front of the pack on the bike and by the end of the 56 miles had amassed a 4:20 minute advantage. A tight knit group of three composed of Americans Tim O’Donnell, Ben Hoffman and New Zealander Braden Currie set off weaving down Westcliff Drive in pursuit. The trio was able to reel in the German and O’Donnell dropped off the pace leaving a dramatic two man sprint finish down past the Dream Inn and onto the soft sand to the finish line on Cowell Beach. Currie, in a total time of 3:33:57, narrowly bested Hoffman (3:33:58) by one second for the win. O’Donnell came in third at 3:35:31. “I was actually quite excited to have a good running race. It’s one of the reasons I wanted to be here to test my run and to race Ben and to race Tim. I know those guys are such solid athletes.” said the satisfied Kiwi.

The women’s pro race played out differently with the top seven women rolling into the bike-to-run transition within two minutes of each other. All in contention for the win, that group included British 2012 Ironman 70.3 and World Champion Leanda Cave and American Ironman record holder Linsey Corbin. But it was Liz Lyles who was able to hold her slender lead off the bike to build a winning gap to finish in 4:08:24 defeating Linsey Corbin (4:09:39) with Kelsey Withrow (4:11:28) in third for an American clean sweep.

“I loved the course. It’s my first time racing here. A little disappointed about the swim being shortened but at least we got to get in.” said Lyles.

Lyles will now focus on the Hawaii Ironman World Championships in five weeks time as will many of the Pros who competed today and use the Santa Cruz half distance race as a tune up.

The bulk of the field, consisting of some 2000 amateur triathletes, filed their way into the Pacific for the abridged swim soon after the pros set off. While the fog had caused trouble for the swim, it made for comfortable conditions for the land portion of the event. With no prize money on the line, the motivation to compete varies for competitors who part with over $300 for the entry fee, not to mention the associated costs of equipment and getting to the start line.

Top local finisher, Julian Sunn, who lives a few blocks away from the race start in the Beach Hill neighborhood, finished second in his 30-34 year old age group in a time of 4:04:23.

“Triathlon is a great challenge and gives my life purpose by giving me something to really focus on. The camaraderie around the sport has brought me all different friendships and connections. It’s not just about the times and podiums.”

Sunn dedicates on average 15 hours a week to training around his full-time job as a Research Scientist at a local biotech company.

Top local female finisher was Santa Cruzan Molly Supple who finished 12th in the female pro field in a time of 4:27:50 and is an employee at the Morgan Hill based bicycle manufacturer, Specialized Bicycle Components.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Ironman triathlon announce new flexible order rule

As part of Ironman's ongoing race development and improvements a new flexible order rule has been announced for all Ironman branded events effective immediately. Hot on the heels of the rolling start initiative, which allows athletes to start whenever they like, competitors will now be able to choose the order they complete the three sports that compose a triathlon.

The idea grew from concerns, first voiced on social media, that the marathon is always held during the hottest part of the day. Many, including the fast growing millennial demographic, felt that was a bit too hard. After effectively killing head-to-head competition with the rolling start, it was a natural next step for organizers to allow competitors to choose for themselves what order they complete the swim, bike and run.

"Just because some mustachioed hippie in the late 70s thought it should be swim, then bike, then run, doesn't mean it has to always be that way", explained Ironman CEO Andrew Hawtmessick. "Many of our customers prefer to finish with a cooling swim and get the marathon out of the way early. We're responding to a need."

The new flexible order rule did cause some consternation among the coaching fraternity. "All the coaching courses we take keep harping on the challenge of running off the bike," complained Dutch national coach, Faarten Mearings. "If our athletes choose not to do the run after the bike, what are we supposed to do with the "brick" workout?"

According to Ironman, however, the athlete response has been positive overall. Most of the questions received to their offices since the announcement are on whether or not the new rules will effect plans to get Iroman tattoos or stick 140.6 stickers to their cars.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Three Quick Swim Stroke Fixes

1. Body Position


Legs and bottom too low in the water creating frontal drag


Kick with your arms by your side with your body horizontal at the surface of the water then add your arms half way down the pool.



You should feel the breeze on your butt is it's in the right position.

2. Catch


Elbow is too low in the first phase of your pull (called the catch) resulting in less power through the front of the stroke.


Practice the sculling drill which puts your elbow in the right position (high and pointing up). Try and replicate that arm position in the first part of your pull through.


3. Rotation


It's easier to get in the correct catch position if you're rotating your body at the hips with each stroke instead of swimming flat on your belly.


Try the Switch drill to get used to rolling from side to side. Gradually reduce the number of kicks you do on each side until you're swimming normally with a nice rotation.



Visualize reaching over a barrel with each stroke. This will help you to keep your elbows high and turning your shoulders to maximize your reach.

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Triathlete's Guide to Anti-Trump Consuming

Triathletes buy a lot of stuff. Some triathletes don't like Trump. I'm not sure exactly of the statistics on that one but triathlons lend themselves to doing plenty of travel and an appreciation of different countries and cultures. Triathletes also enjoy a protected natural environment and clean air.

Here's a guide on products and brands you might want to support or avoid if you're not on the Trump train.


Under Armour

CEO is a real Trump fan! He has described Trump as "an asset to the country" and has even implied support for the wall. Under Armour makes shoes, running apparel and sports bras and have in the past made triathlon shorts. They are a major sponsor of Australian Ironman champ Chris McCormick.


A popular fitness tracking app (you might know it as MapMyRun or MapMy Ride) was acquired by Under Armour in 2013. You might want to delete your account and app and use the (also much better IMHO) Strava instead.

New Balance

You might train in New Balance shoes and wear their running shorts and socks. This one is a bit more of a grey area. New Balance started the controversy in November 2016 when they supported Trump's proposal to tear up the Trans Pacific Partnership (as they have U.S. based factories). It was taken by some as an endorsement of Trump and wasn't helped when a white supremacist website site voiced their support.


Often travelling to destination events far from home, travel is always a big expense for triathletes. Obviously you won't be staying in a Trump hotel but you also want to avoid his new cheaper option, Scion Hotels.

Amazon, Zappos

If you shop online for a pair of shoes or a GPS watch, you might want to avoid these two that still sell Ivanka and Trump products. 


Nordstrom Rack

You've probably heard of Trump and Kellyanne Conway calling out Nordstrom for dumping Ivanka Trump's clothing line. But wait, what has Nordstrom got to do with triathletes? I can attest personally to have bought quality brand name running shoes from there for a steal! I've also seen running shirts and shorts.

Athleta, Patagonia, REI, Arc'teryx

The #grabyourwallet campaign started this consumer resistance campaign and has been responsible for many companies pulling Trump related products off their shelves. 100% Trump free retailers, that carry brands and equipment popular with triathletes, are on that list. Patagonia and Arc'teryx have also been pushing back hard on Trump's anti-environment policies and both have some great trail running gear.

Update 2/10 - Skinfit CEO want you to know they are Trump safe to buy via this tweet .

Would love to hear from readers if you know of any tri related brands that have made a stand for or against Trump and I will update this blog.